White House: Boehner comments on immigration are 'laughable'

Speaker John Boehner's statement that “nobody has spent more time” trying to fix the immigration system than him was “laughable,” the White House said Tuesday.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said that if the House approves comprehensive immigration reform, “credit for that will accrue to the Speaker.”

“But thus far we have not seen any evidence from house leaders for a commitment to comprehensive reform,” Carney said.

Boehner (R-Ohio) made his comment earlier on Tuesday while handling a question about his “hands off” approach to immigration reform.

“Nobody has spent more time trying to fix a broken immigration system than I have,” Boehner said. “I talked about it the day after the election. I’ve talked about it a hundred times since. And while some may disagree about how we’re going about fixing a broken immigration system, it’s been a big goal of mine.”

Carney responded: “The idea that you can ... declare yourself to have been more committed to anyone to improve our immigration system and then have nothing to show for it is a little laughable.”

The press secretary also indicated that the White House would oppose legislation being drafted by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) that would allow illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children a pathway to legal status or citizenship.

The House Judiciary Committee had scheduled a hearing on the issue Tuesday. House Republicans have said the bill would be different from legislation in the Senate known as the Dream Act, which deals with the same issue.

Carney said the bill was problematic because the parents of those children would be forced to leave the United States.

“A bill that would allow some so-called DREAMers stay in this country and become the Americans they long felt that they were because of their status and the fact that they came when they were so young, but then deport their parents is hardly a workable solution," Carney said.

His comments echoed a tweet by Dan Pfeiffer, a senior White House adviser. He tweeted a link to an editorial in La Opinion, a Spanish-language newspaper, that denounced Cantor's plan.

A spokesman for Boehner suggested Tuesday that Pfeiffer's comment could derail House efforts to pass elements of immigration reform, and criticized the White House for bashing a plan based on the DREAM Act that had been originally championed by President Obama.

But Carney said Pfeiffer was “pointing out was that La Opinion opposes the approach being taken by some Republicans which would avoid the essential responsibility to address immigration reform in a comprehensive way.”

He added that the editorial “reflects the need for all of us” — but especially Republicans — “to pay attention to the Spanish language media.”

He also again reiterated that the White House opposed the GOP leadership's stated preference to handle immigration reform in a piecemeal fashion. Earlier Tuesday, Boehner said Republicans “believe that a common-sense, step-by-step approach to addressing this problem makes a lot more sense than one big, massive, comprehensive bill.”

“The president believes we have to address this in a comprehensive way,” Carney said.